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LETTER: Violence against women not limited to domestic abuse and rape

Campaign unites the voices of millions of women and girls to eliminate violence against women
File photo from National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women gathering in Barrie in 2017. Sue Sgambati/VillageMedia

OrilliaMatters received the following letter from Karen Thorington, Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Orillia Advocacy Chair in reference to 16 Days of Advocacy and to appeal to readers to help promote a healthier, safer environment for all.

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Violence against women (VAW) is an ongoing human rights issue. It prevents women from enjoying all human rights and creates a significant barrier to gender equality.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not limited to domestic abuse and rape, but includes a broad spectrum of acts such as verbal, psychological and physical harassment and coercion, as well as torture and murder. VAW results from the gender-biased power relations and discrimination that shapes our laws, governance structures and collective and individual attitudes.

It especially impacts women who are young, Indigenous, living in poverty, racialized, disabled, or part of the LGBTQI2S community.

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) has been actively monitoring policies and programs that address VAW. Women in Canada are far from immune from gender-based violence. Based on recent census data, which show no significant reduction, VAW continues to be a national problem. 

In light of the ongoing national tragedy of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the culture of sexual harassment on Canadian campuses and in the workplace, and the reports and testimonies from women and girls who are/were submitted to torture in the domestic sphere, the Canadian Federation of University Women calls for concerted actions at all levels of government. Adequate funding, clear, measurable national targets, and a comprehensive approach that includes diverse socio-economic measures such as childcare and adequate housing, are required to address the issue.

Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 is known as the 16 Days of Activism.

Beginning with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and concluding with Human Rights Day, the campaign unites the voices of millions of women and girls to raise awareness about VAW, work to eliminate all forms of VAW and demand equal protection and full access to fundamental human rights of safety and education.

In Canada, we also commemorate the 14 engineering students who were gunned down in 1989 at Montréal’s l’Ecole Polytechnique on Dec. 6.

Education is a large component of the battle to end gender-based violence. 

We need to teach our children to resolve conflict without violence. We need to teach our girls to protect and empower themselves. And we need to teach our boys that violence, and in particular gender-based violence, perpetuates the problem.

The Ontario health curriculum, introduced in 2015, attempted to address these issues. Unfortunately, the curriculum was axed when the Conservatives took power this summer. Let your MPP know that this curriculum has merit and needs to be brought back to the classroom. 

Learn how negative media images of women and girls foster gender-based violence and how you can counter this trend.

Purple is the colour chosen to represent VAW. Wearing a purple scarf lets others know that you believe that violence against women and girls is not acceptable and must not be tolerated.

You can purchase a beautiful purple scarf from Green Haven Women’s Shelter for $20. The funds go towards this much needed resource. Green Haven also accepts donations such as toiletries, warm socks, mitts, hats, etc. and food.

As individuals, we can challenge comments/jokes that promote violence against women. Too often, we give a nervous titter to such comments rather than calling out the speaker for promoting negative behaviour. In our age of social media, one can also challenge online harassment.  

Over the next 16 days, please join CFUW Orillia in promoting a healthier and safer environment for all.

Karen Thorington
CFUW Orillia advocacy chair